Researchers Discover a Breakthrough Drug That May Significantly Delay Type 1 Diabetes

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A monoclonal antibody called teplizumab has been shown to delay the onset of type 1 diabetes for as long as two years.

About 1.25 million Americans suffer from the disease, a form of diabetes in which the pancreas stops producing essential insulin, which regulates blood sugar. Those with type 1 diabetes need several insulin shots daily to live. Unlike the more common type 2 diabetes, which affects an estimated 28 million-plus people in this country, type 1 diabetes usually manifests itself in childhood and is tied to genetics. Also unlike type 2 diabetes, it is irreversible and cannot be treated by lifestyle changes, or by keeping the health resolutions doctors want you to keep.

The new therapy was discovered by Yale University researchers, who conducted a trial on 76 people mostly aged between 8 and 18 who had not yet developed diabetes but who had abnormal blood sugar and had family members the disease. Their study, the results of which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and released at a meeting of the American Diabetes Association on Saturday, found that the treatment — administered by IV daily for two weeks — could be effective at keeping temporarily diabetes at bay.

According to Dr. Kevan Herold, a professor of immunobiology and medicine at Yale, who presented the study in San Francisco, “every day you can delay this disease is important.”

A more comprehensive study is needed to confirm the results of the initial research, but if teplizumab therapy does prove to be effective, it could become available within a few years — and offers promise for a longer-lasting treatment for the disease. In the meantime, because diabetes of both types affects so many Americans, everyone should be aware of the warning signs that you might have diabetes.